Fracking firm denies safety claims

Anti-fracking campaigners have written to Business Secretary Greg Clark calling for plans in North Yorkshire to be halted over safety concerns.

Anti Fracking supporters at the Kirby Misperton site . pic Richard Ponter 175258c
Anti Fracking supporters at the Kirby Misperton site . pic Richard Ponter 175258c

In allegations strongly denied by Third Energy, the firm responsible for the scheme, the Frack Free Ryedale group has claimed the use of an “ageing” pipeline could lead to serious health dangers. Calling on the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to refrain from granting a consent license for the site at Kirby Misperton until concerns are addressed, campaigners have warned they will issue a judicial claim if he refuses to do so.

“The Secretary of State has a moral responsibility to residents to halt Third Energy’s plans until these issues have been thoroughly investigated,” said Ryedale district councillor Di Keal.

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Frack Free Ryedale claims a pipeline for transporting shale gas at the Kirby Misperton site was created only to carry 
conventional gas, raising fears over leaks of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) which they insist could be found at the site.

“It is simply not acceptable for the Secretary of State to allow Third Energy to proceed with fracking at Kirby Misperton,” said campaigner Russell Scott. “Third Energy intend to use a pipeline which is no longer fit for purpose.”

But, as claims were strongly rebutted by Third Energy yesterday, the company said the first it heard of the allegations was when a press statement was issued just hours before.

“We find this to be very disappointing but entirely consistent with the ‘grab a headline and never mind the science’ approach which has been adopted by a number of the protest groups,” a spokesman said. It was apparent, he added, that regulators charged with ensuring high safety standards hadn’t been consulted before the letter was sent.

“Had they taken the time to ensure their information was accurate, they would have been able to quickly clear up many of the factual errors contained in, and repeated throughout the letter.”

Among the issues Third Energy denied were concerns over safety. The firm has been safely exploring for gas in the Vale of Pickering for more than 30 years, it said, and producing electricity in North Yorkshire for more than two decades. All its infrastructure is permitted and regulated by a number of expert bodies and all equipment, including pipelines, is inspected regularly and subjected to “rigorous” testing when extending its operating life.

Extensive sampling and analysis has been undertaken, the spokesman added, and the natural gas is found to contain only “trace levels” of H2S.

“Third Energy and predecessor companies have drilled over 20 wells in its Vale of Pickering licence area over three decades,” the spokesman said. “Throughout its history, Third Energy has worked with its regulators to operate safely and efficiently, minimising the impact of its operations on the environment and neighbours. We work closely with local residents, local businesses, local councils as well our regulators.”

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), when approached by The Yorkshire Post, added it is content that, under the current risk management systems employed by Third Energy, the gas from the KM8 well can be safely conveyed.